Witty banter does not a romance novel make. It is, however, what Elaine Fox serves up in her latest contemporary romance, a book that presents a light-hearted look at the singles scene and all the strange things couples are willing to do to get together.
Laurel Kane, a reporter for the small publication DC Scene, is assigned to write a feature about Dr. Cornelius Nadalov and his new book. After reading Love is Not the Answer she buys into his theory hook, line, and sinker. She gives up on the idea of a marriage based on love and instead decides to build a relationship based on friendship and shared interests.
Joe Squires is a successful gourmet coffee entrepreneur who just so happens to be working a pushcart to determine if the location would suit his next store. He’s finally over his disastrous first marriage and isn’t looking for a relationship, but enjoys Laurel’s visits to buy coffee; he thinks she’s cute and opinionated. One day he overhears her telling a colleague about Nadalov’s book and theory and cannot believe she buys into “that crap,” and challenges her. He knows he can prove her wrong.
The challenge to prove Laurel wrong is simply too great for Joe, even though he’s not really interesting in getting involved with a woman at this time. As for Laurel, Joe intrigues her all the while he challenges her preconceived notions. As a result of his challenge a scheme is devised that leads to Laurel and Joe going on a series of dates and later reporting back to the other. These interactions form the basis of Laurel’s written pieces, the dating chronicles of “Plain Jane and Average Joe,” and it is these dates that become the focus for the book. The only hitch in the plan is the more Joe works with Laurel the more he realizes that she’s the one for him. The problem then becomes Laurel running away from the potential love match because she no longer believes a relationship based on love can work.
Aside from the banter between Laurel and Joe and the “fly on the wall” aspect of watching them date others, this book didn’t have much going for it. The reader doesn’t get enough information about Joe to form a true opinion about him, or to care much for his character. It’s somewhat hard to swallow his happily working a pushcart given his high-powered position. But most difficult to understand are his other choices; all we really know about him is that he thinks Laurel is smart, funny, and attractive.
My other issue with the story goes to the believability of Laurel’s character. As a reader I just didn’t buy she wasn’t looking for true love. At the start of the book she’d just broken off with a good guy because they weren’t right for each other. Had she really changed her mind and now believed marriages should be based on friendship, why not simply get back with him?
Those looking for humor and banter will find it in Hot Stuff. Unfortunately, those looking for a love relationship won’t be satisfied by what author Fox provides for Joe and Laurel. As Chick Lit with a hint of romance, maybe. As romance with a hint of Chick Lit, no.